August Burns Red
Leveler


2.5
average

Review

by Eli EMERITUS
June 21st, 2011 | 81 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: In which consistency gives way to stagnation, with "Leveler" being a stale, forgettable, and ultimately disappointing release.

August Burns Red have been picking up quite a lot of steam since their debut Thrill Seeker. Since then, they've been making quite a name for themselves. After all, despite their strict adherence to the genre staples, the band has been doing an upstanding job pulling themselves up from the pool of forgettable and “flash-in-the-pan” acts. Praised for their “inconceivable consistency”, the band has enjoyed a hefty amount of acclaim, both commercial and critical. Yet after several outputs, does the band still have their heart in what they do? Is their music still genuine, and is it even still believable? Leveler, their fourth album, answers these questions, and for some longtime fans, the answers may be less than desirable.

To put it simply, Leveler is an average, if not good record. August Burns Red truly is one of the most consistent metalcore acts out there today, and their fairly impressive catalog displays that. They constantly release crisp, clean, and tightly packaged albums, shined to a brilliant gleam. Predictable, yes, but each release has been a decently enjoyable experience all the same. However, it’s difficult to argue that what they’re doing isn’t working, because once more, August Burns Red has crafted a catchy, heavy, and fun record, and one which will appeal to their fan base as well as new comers. Yet beneath this superficial veneer lies an album with no meat and no substance, an album whose appeal wears thin rather quickly.

The album is metalcore through and through, containing all of the stereotypes that the genre has since become known for: throaty yells, bountiful breakdowns, and an emphasis on a “heavy” instrumental delivery. Per the usual, the band doesn’t stray too far from the pre-established formula, instead opting to trace almost every little footprint that other acts have placed earlier. August Burns Red does in fact add some variety to their songs, but it simply isn’t enough to make an otherwise bland album come to life. Leveler feels so much like their 2009 effort, that it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it Constellations 2.0. The same hooks, the same melodic sections, and the same goddamn guitar noodling (JB Brubaker’s fun and interesting guitar solos were much more exciting when they weren’t used to ad nauseum on every song) are all carried over to this album, giving a very strong feeling of déj* vu. This is Leveler’s, as well as the band’s biggest failing. The feeling of consistency quickly gives way to the feeling of stagnation, and it’s truly disappointing. The band really hasn’t evolved past their “breakdown” days, with Leveler being testament to that. However, Constellations was an excellent album, so more of the same isn’t exactly a deal breaker, right? After all, the strengths found on that record have all carried over (as well as much improved vocal performance by Jake Luhrs), so Leveler should be just as good, if not better, correct?

Not exactly.

The band has gone on record to say that they no longer really listen to metalcore, or have that much of an interest in it. It’s difficult to ascertain whether or not this is the reason for the band’s obviously uninspired performance. Regardless, the album truly suffers. There’s nothing that grabs the listener, nothing to draw one in to make these songs sound believable or genuine. On one hand, Leveler is simply a good record, filled with really good songs. Re-hashed, yes, but at the end on the day the album is still thoroughly enjoyable. On the other hand the album sees the band refusing to move on, evolve, and do something different. In this sense, Leveler either represents a band 100% comfortable with what they’re doing, or a band stuck in a rut with no interest to really get out of it. It’s same-y, despite the bands best efforts to stave off stagnation"a sentiment that may be a hard pill to swallow for some longtime fans.

It would be easy to hinge criticism solely on the band’s lack of progression, but the songwriting is another aspect of Leveler that just isn’t up to snuff. To put it plainly, the album is dull. The songs are stale, rigid, and all around boring. It feels rushed, and the homogenous track list bleeds together because of it. Leveler may be tepid, and it may be tired, but despite all of this it still has its fair share of great moments. “Salt & Light” represents the album’s strongest track, as it’s a culmination of the band’s sound, as well as the few new ideas that they’ve implemented. Quickly paced and inherently catchy, the song feels like an August Burns Red track, but a loopy, almost post-rock-y guitar and spoken word segment make it one of the fresher tracks on the record. It’s a great anthem-esque song, and one which really stands out as one of the band’s better pieces. “Internal Cannon” is another standout, in that if feels a tad bit different than the rest. It’s filled with an obnoxious amount of breakdowns, but the time shifts keep the listener on their toes, as does the strange “salsa-fied” guitar solo. The genre bending isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it’s unpredictable"something Leveler actually needed more of. Much of the remainder of the album is filled to the brim with forgettable tracks, each bland and uninspired in their own way.

Regardless of what goes on behind the scenes, Leveler continues August Burns Red’s success, and will surely gain them even more fans, and even more critical acclaim. For who have yet to jump onto the bandwagon, this album really isn’t for you. For those patiently waiting for this band to change, this also is not for you. Yet for those wanting a meticulously polished, decently enjoyable metalcore album, [Leveler] is exactly what you’re looking for.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenophanes
Emeritus
June 21st 2011


10663 Comments


This was written for something else but it seems like it would fit here better, and it's been awhile since my last review.

Fuck you 97% approval rating!

Digging: Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III - Saturnian Poetry

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2011


31618 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Now this is what I'm talking about

Digging: Theo Parrish - American Intelligence

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2011


31618 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Black diamonds though

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2011


28815 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

urgh that first line what the fuckkkkk

Digging: Charli XCX - Sucker

MO
June 21st 2011


19077 Comments


Nice review Xeno. Minor spelling:

"but at the end on the day the album "

DoubtGin
June 21st 2011


6754 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

1/4

botb
June 21st 2011


9778 Comments


seriously the ghost negs on all these reviews... and before anyone says anything about my rating, im allowed to have one fanboy rating for a little while.

BigHans
June 21st 2011


26454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the second half of Empire is amazing.

Kris.
June 21st 2011


12511 Comments


no youre not

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
June 21st 2011


50959 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Salt And Light is definitely the best.

Digging: Friendzone - Collection 1

Tyrael
June 21st 2011


20971 Comments


[Leveler], their fourth album

Forgot italics here ;]

In critiquing metalcore, it has become somewhat customary to point out the failings of the genre, as it has reputation for being one of the most incestuous scenes in modern music.

Lol, nice review as always Xeno!

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2011


31618 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

BB code fuck up in the 4th para as well

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2011


28815 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

review is pretty good except beginning

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
June 21st 2011


7426 Comments


Still need to hear this. I actually nearly bought it today but I'm glad I didn't now.

Psychopathologist
June 21st 2011


1922 Comments


only 3 reviews so far? boooo

ShinXetsu
June 21st 2011


605 Comments


Good review man, I'll pos.

This album has been kind of disappointing so far. Sure they've added sprinkles of other genres here and there for a little innovation but that's the point if you're gonna play it without the visceral sound that elevated your other albums above average?

Spec
June 21st 2011


27298 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Still need to hear this. I actually nearly bought it today but I'm glad I didn't now.

But they're all $10 or less for the next week or something. I would have.

bloc
June 21st 2011


35024 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Negs be loving this album

Xenophanes
Emeritus
June 21st 2011


10663 Comments


review is pretty good except beginning


Yeah I was on the fence about it. Mainly it's kind of an asshole-ish hit at every metalcore review from the last 3 years. How would you suggest I change it?

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
June 21st 2011


28815 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

don't make sweeping generalizations about genres

because indie pop and black metal and folk punk are arguably as just as incestuous as metalcore, nu metal, and dubstep, and yet they never catch any flack because they're less trendy.



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